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Monday, 14 April 2014

Britain From Above at Cardigan Library






On Monday 31 March, Britain From Above’s Activity Officer and Community Archaeologists from the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments Wales were in Cardigan Library as part of the nationwide Spring Online campaign, helping senior members of the community explore and use the internet. Over thirty people including residents from the local community and further afield came along to hear about the Britain from Above project for the first time. They were astonished by the range of the collection and the quality of the images.

The website is a fantastic online resource showcasing a previously unseen collection of aerial photographs of Wales, Scotland and England from the pioneering age of aviation. The collection covers the years 1919-1953, a period when the landscape of Britain was undergoing drastic change.

After hearing about the project and seeing the remarkable collection, they were all keen to log in and get started! Once registered, people were eager to start looking for places they knew well. There was an engaging mix of interests drawing people to the event, some came along who had a strong fascination with local history and were enthusiastic to find out how to use the site for their own research whilst other people enjoyed looking for places they knew when they were growing up.


It was a successful day with attendees happily sharing their stories of Cardigan from both their research and personal memories. Everyone who joined us left knowing more about the Britain from Above project and the ways it could be explored and used as a free research resource.

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

First Modern Excavation on Skomer Seeks to Explore and Date Island’s Prehistoric Settlements





The Skomer Island Project team (L-R), Dr Oliver Davis (Cardiff University), Louise Barker (RCAHMW), Dr Bob Johnston (University of Sheffield), Dr Toby Driver (RCAHMW)
 
A collaborative research project between staff of the Royal Commission, The University of Sheffield and Cardiff University has just completed a third season of fieldwork and research on the renowned prehistoric landscape and national nature reserve of Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. This included the historic, first modern excavation in the island’s history, exploring a mound of burnt stone alongside a prehistoric settlement, which produced flintwork, datable charcoal and the first fragments of prehistoric pottery from the island.

Skomer is a heavily protected landscape famous for its puffins and other breeding seabirds, but it is also home to some of the best preserved prehistoric field systems and hut settlements anywhere in Britain. In 2011 the Royal Commission used airborne laser scanning (LiDAR) to map comprehensively the island’s field systems. This work discovered evidence for a longer chronology to the fields than had previously been thought. The Skomer Island Project built on this work in 2012 with the first use of geophysics on the island, which showed that unrecorded prehistoric fields and settlements survive beneath the modern fields in the centre of the island.

Despite two major studies of the island’s archaeology in the twentieth century, no modern excavation had been attempted. In order to refine a chronology, the team set out in 2014 to undertake the first modern excavation to locate buried charcoal and other evidence suitable for radiocarbon dating and scientific analysis. It was decided to target one of the many substantial mounds of burnt stone in the north of the island, which are found alongside the prehistoric hut groups, thought to have built up from cooking activities. Although few finds were encountered in the mound itself, a sealed soil layer was uncovered a metre down, which yielded charcoal, flint tools and fragments of prehistoric pottery. Excavations were recorded using Structure from Motion, a technique which builds individual photographs into a 3D digital model of the land surface. The hard work of post-excavation now begins to analyse the discoveries and learn more about prehistoric life on Skomer.



Accurately recording prehistoric finds and charcoal samples in three dimensions using GPS.

The Skomer Island Project team would like to thank the Skomer Island Wardens, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and Natural Resources Wales for accommodating the archaeological work and granting permission to work in a Site of Special Scientific Interest. They are also grateful to Cadw for Scheduled Monument Consent, which allowed the work to proceed. The Royal Commission’s online records for the work can be found here.

By Toby Driver

 Further Reading:



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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Archaeology and the Sea: Aberystwyth hosts CBA Wales Spring Meeting





On Saturday 5th April CBA (Council for British Archaeology): Wales held its Spring Meeting at Y Morlan Centre, Aberystwyth. The theme was Archaeology and the Sea: Coastal Archaeology in Wales. The Royal Commission provided exhibition material, including a display on Aberystwyth’s storm-damaged Bathrock Shelter and aerial photographs of the coastal davastation caused by the recent storms of 2014.

CBA-sponsered Community Archaeologists, Kimberly Briscoe and Sarahjayne Clements, were on hand to discuss their current community project, The Coastal Heritage of Borth and Ynyslas. Both are completing CBA-sponsered work placements with the Royal Commission. The project has proved hugely popular, with an ever-increasing number of Borth and Ynyslas residents (past and present) eager to participate and to contribute memories, photographs and documents. Material generated will be added to the National Monuments Record (NMR) and uploaded to People’s Collection Wales, creating a permanent digital record. The project’s facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Coastal-Heritage-of-Borth-and-Ynyslas/277783665703802


The Royal Commission’s CBA work placements, Kimberley and Sarahjayne, discuss the coastal heritage of Borth and Ynyslas

During the afternoon’s symposium, Mike Roberts (Bangor University) detailed current research on the history of north Wales’ sea level change, including the fascinating results of a multibeam sonar survey of the entire Anglesey coast. A causeway linking Anglesey to the mainland is now thought to have been submerged for the first time at around  8,400BP. Stephen Briggs (independent researcher) then gave an informative talk about the remains of ancient landscapes beneath the beach at Llanrhystud. Various recently exposed features include post-glacial peat deposits and parts of a cobbled track thought to be associated with nearby post-medieval limekilns. Paul Huckfield (Gwent-Glamorgan Archaeological Trust) reviewed recent discoveries on the south Wales coast revealed by the 2014 storms. They  include a cemetery at Monknash, two canon at Porthcawl and a number of ship wrecks, discovered as a result of the Welsh Archaeological Trusts’ Arfordir scheme. The pan-Wales scheme brings together local volunteers to record and moniter their coastal heritage and incorporate the results into the regional Historic Environment Records. One of the shipwrecks, identified through the Royal Commission’s Maritme Database, is thought to be that of the iron-hulled Ben-y-Gloe, wrecked on its maiden voyage from Penarth in 1886.

The Royal Commission’s Maritime Officer, Deanna Groom, then explained the Commission’s leading role in the recording, curating and supplying of information regarding Wales’ maritime heritage. The Commission’s 9498 Maritime records comprise around 9% of the entire National Monuments Record. They include coastal and intertidal features, submerged landscape features, historic seascape features, 6000+ shipwrecks and 349 downed aircraft.


Royal Commission Maritime Officer, Deanna Groom, talks about Wales’ rich maritime archaeology

Deanna also outlined recent work with Kimberley and Sarahjayne on the Royal Commission and Cadw’s Shipwrecks Project, designed to investigate the wider impact of the Royal Charter Gale of 1859. The Royal Charter was one of 50+ vessels driven onto the Welsh coast by the gale. The project involved working with Welsh Baccalaureate students from Pembrokeshire College, engaging them with the story of the storm and their local maritime heritage. The project also demonstrated how local resources can be used for research, with Pembrokeshire Archives facilitating a ‘treasure hunt’ across shipping registers, burial records and census returns. Material generated by the project can be viewed by visiting ‘The Great Storm of 1859’ http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/collections/377940 and ‘Pembrokeshire Shipwrecks Project’ http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/node/380977 on the freshly relaunched People’s Collection Wales website.


Some of the items uploaded by the Royal Commission to People’s Collection Wales as part of ‘The Great Storm of 1859’ collection

The afternoon’s final speaker was Martin Bates (University of Wales Trinity St David, Lampeter), who discussed the results of recent archaeological investigation at Borth and Clarach. Recent coastal change, coupled with this year’s storms, has revealed extensive prehistoric peat exposures, within which are contemporary organic remains and animal and human (including a child’s) footprints. At Borth, a combination of survey, sampling and archaeological excavation has facilitated far greater understanding of the foreshore’s underlying geology and the reconstruction of its post-glacial landscape.

The event proved a great success, providing an informative insight into the wealth of archaeology located around Wales’ coastline, as well as highlighting its fragile and precarious nature.

By Nikki Vousden


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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Great Walk: Fan Llia and Fan Dringarth Guided Walk, 3 May






The rolling moorland landscape looking across the upper Llia valley to the south-east
On Saturday 3 May, David Leighton, an expert in uplands archaeology from the Royal Commission will be leading a guided walk around Fan Llia and Fan Dringarth in the beautiful Brecon Beacons. In a quiet area for walking, well hidden from more popular routes, this picturesque moorland walk is notable for monuments of prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date, which can be seen along the route. Notable highlights of the walk include a massive block of sandstone and one of the largest prehistoric standing stones in South Wales at Maen Llia (NPRN: 84541), and the old toll road and possibly the line of the Roman road, Sarn Helen (NPRN: 407122), as well as the extensive remains of numerous historic period settlement sites in the Nant y Gaseg Valley.

Covering a total distance of about 13.5 km (8.5miles), this walk will follow a course along the western slopes of Fan Llia to the head of the Llia valley, across Bryn Melyn and Cefn Perfedd into Cwm Dringarth and tributary stream valleys below Fan Dringarth, and down Cwm Dringarth above the Ystradfellte Reservoir, returning to the carpark across the southern extent of Cefn Perfedd.
Walkers will meet at 10.30am at the parking and picnic area (SN92721646) on the unclassified road between Ystradfellte and Heol Senni. This can be accessed to the south from the A4215 Sennybridge to Libanus road.

For further information, email Nicola Roberts, nicola.roberts@rcahmw.gov.uk or phone 01970 621200. Places are limited to 30 on this walk.


View of Maen Llia from the north-west

A fuller description of  this walk , together with other walks and sites encountered along the route, may be found in a copy of  The Western Brecon Beacons: The Archaeology of Mynydd Du and Fforest Fawr by David Leighton which is available from the Royal Commission.

This walk has been organised as part of Ramblers Cymru and Cadw’s Great Walks programme. For further details of other walks amid a historic setting this spring, please use Cadw’s events finder: http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/events/ 

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Friday, 28 March 2014

Vacancy: EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT (Strategy & Resources Team)





Full details: EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT  (Strategy & Resources Team)
Salary Range £22400 - £25720, 37 hours per week – permanent appointment

Based in Aberystwyth, the Royal Commission is the investigation body and national archive for the historic environment of Wales. It has the lead role in ensuring that Wales’s archaeological, built and maritime heritage is authoritatively recorded, and seeks to promote the understanding and appreciation of this heritage nationally and internationally.

We are looking for someone to assist the Secretary of the Commission (The Chief Executive) by carrying out strategic and organisational tasks, the most important of which will be developing and coordinating the Commission’s Operational and Strategic Plan in accordance with the Welsh Government’s guidelines. Other duties include coordinating reports, papers and documents for key meetings, ensuring that the Secretary’s telephone enquiries and correspondence are dealt with quickly and efficiently, and collating and coordinating the Commission’s quarterly performance monitoring procedures.

As well as being confident and self-motivated with good communication and IT skills, candidates must have proven experience and/or appropriate professional or academic qualifications in a relevant discipline. They must also have proven experience of working at both strategic and operational levels and be able to develop and maintain positive and professional working relationships with staff and external contacts. The ability to communicate through the medium of Welsh would be an advantage.


Please return your completed application form to the address below:-

Mr S Bailey John
Royal Commission
Plas Crug
Aberystwyth
Ceredigion
SY23 1NJ

Tel: 01970 621230
Fax: 01970 621246
e-mail: stephen.bailey-john@rcahmw.gov.uk
                                              
Closing date for applications: 26 April 2014

The Royal Commission is an equal opportunities employer.


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Thursday, 27 March 2014

History and Heritage Book Sale at the Royal Commission







On Wednesday, 9 April, there will be a rare opportunity to purchase a wide range of books, journals, maps and guidebooks, relating to archaeology, architecture and the built heritage. There will be over 1000 titles in this sale of surplus and duplicate stock from the Royal Commission’s library in Aberystwyth. Titles include a complete set of Archaeologia Cambrensis and other standard archaeology journals, numerous off-prints, books on pre-history, the Romans, industrial archaeology, Gwent and Glamorgan County Histories, and other historical and archaeological volumes and much more. There will also be a selection of O.S. 6-inch maps of various editions, a small collection of 1:10,000 and Landranger maps. Selected current Royal Commission publications will also be on offer with a discount of up to 30%. Information Services Manager, Penny Icke, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to acquire hard to find and often out-of-print historical and archaeological material. We hope to see as many people as possible at the sale”. Doors open from 10am–4pm. Everyone welcome!

 
For further information, email Penny Icke, penny.icke@rcahmw.gov.uk or phone 01970 621200


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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Getting the best of Britain from Above - Cardigan Library





Piloting the Internet

‘Getting the best of Britain from Above’


Free Event, Everyone Welcome!

Monday 31 March 2014, 10am-4pm

Cardigan Library, talks: 11am, 1pm and 3pm

Come along and discover this fantastic online resource showcasing a previously unseen collection of aerial photographs of Wales, Scotland and England from the pioneering age of aviation. The collection covers the years 1919-1953, a period when the landscape of Britain was undergoing drastic change.

There will be three talks on the history of the collection and the project itself during the day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, but everyone will be welcome to pop in and find out more through the day with a Britain from Above Activity Officer and have a go on the website itself as part of the Digital Unite Spring Online week.

Cardigan Library I.T. suite, Canolfan Teifi, Pendre,
Cardigan, SA43 1JL. Telephone: 01686 626934

Find out more at: www.britainfromabove.org.uk

Natasha Scullion, Britain from Above Activity Officer, Wales.

e-mail: natasha.scullion@rcahmw.gov.uk
Telephone: 01970 621200


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Monday, 17 March 2014

Careers in Heritage Day at the Royal Commission





On Thursday, 12 March, students of archaeology, history, geography and heritage in general came from all over Wales to the Royal Commission’s Careers in Heritage Day held in collaboration with the Britain from Above project. Students had the opportunity to listen to talks by the Royal Commission’s archivist, Gareth Edwards, and its aerial investigator, Dr Toby Driver ─ two very different occupations in the heritage sector! There were presentations on a broad range of heritage specialisms: the Britain from Above community project, technical survey, maritime archaeology, CBA community archaeology placements, People’s Collection Wales, GIS mapping and heritage publications. Visitors were also able to explore the resources of the National Monuments Record and talked to our Reader Services staff. As you will see from the photographs and the feedback comments, the day generated much enthusiasm and interest!

“Very informative- thank you. Careers advice useful. Hopefully I will progress in this Heritage Sector”.

“I haven’t used the Royal Commission to its full advantage. I will recommend their facilities to other Aberystwyth students”.

“Britain from Above website helped me with an assignment. Very good day, informative and useful.”

“Very informative, particularly on the specifics of Lidar. Thank you”.

“Very informative& engaging. Thank you for such a  great opportunity. Talks v.good”.

“Wedi dysgu llawer iawn heddiw ac cael dysgu  mwy am y datblygiad o y lle dwi yn byw”. (Learned a lot today and have learned more about the development of where I live.)

“Diwrnod diddorol, wedi gwneud i mi feddwl am yr swyddi i mi gael yn yr dyfodol”. (Interesting day, made me think about the jobs available for me in the future.)

Looking into the past with 3D glasses.
Explaining the scope of the Britain from Above project.
Enthusiasm for maritime archaeology.
Explaining digital survey to an interested audience.
Discussing the Royal Commission’s successful heritage publications.
Students engrossed in historic aerial photos.
Appreciative comments on the graffiti wall at the end of the day!


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